Featuring the best attractions in the South East Lake District that are accessible by public transport
The Lake District and Cumbria are home to some of the best scenery and visitor attractions in the country. In the south east Lakes, this includes the popular towns of Bowness, Ambleside, Hawkshead and Grasmere, England’s largest lake, Windermere, plus a number of historic houses, many associated with William Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter.
There are various bus, train and boat services through the area which will transport you to all of the popular attractions described below. Each attraction includes a brief description, photograph, link to website (where available) and any facilities such as shops, cafes and toilets. Public transport services that stop nearby (within 1 mile) are listed and the location of each stop in relation to the attraction is described. Further information on each transport service, including route maps, timetable links and other attractions visited on route, can be found by following the transport service link.
South East Lake District
Select attraction for further detail
* Ambleside – Popular town at northern end of Windermere lake
* Bowness-on-Windermere – Popular town on shores of Windermere
* Brockhole – Visitor activity centre on shores of Windermere
* Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum – Former Wordsworth residence near Grasmere with adjacent museum
* Elterwater – Attractive village in the Langdale valley
* Esthwaite Water – Peaceful lake to the west of Windermere
* Fell Foot park – Popular park at the southern end of Windermere lake
* Grasmere – Attractive village in the central Lakes
* Great Langdale – Picturesque valley in the central Lakes
* Harrowslack – Open access on western shore of Windermere lake
* Haverthwaite Station – Lakeside & Haverthwaite railway terminus
* Hawkshead – Attractive village near Esthwaite Water
* Hill Top – Historic home of Beatrix Potter
* Holehird Gardens – Attractive gardens overlooking Windermere lake
* Lakeland Motor Museum – Fascinating road transport museum near Newby Bridge
* Lakeside – Boat pier and train station with aquarium at southern end of Windermere lake
* Rayrigg Meadow – Windermere lakeshore amenity area and viewpoint
* Rydal – Small village with some good attractions near Ambleside
* Staveley – Lakeland village between Kendal and Windermere
* Stott Park Bobbin Mill – Historic bobbin mill near Newby Bridge
* Townend – Historic Lakeland farmhouse near Windermere
* Waterhead – Lakeside area and boat terminus adjacent to Ambleside at northern end of Windermere lake
* White Moss Common – Scenic woodland area between Rydal and Grasmere
* Windermere – Popular town and transport hub adjacent to Bowness
* Wray Castle – Striking mock-gothic castle on the shores of Windermere lake
South East Lake District - Attractions Map
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South East Lake District - Attractions
Ambleside is a popular Lakeland town with plenty of tourist attractions. Perhaps the most famous sight is Bridge House, a quaint National Trust property spanning Stock Ghyll. The nearby Armitt Museum is small but has some interesting local history. The town has plenty of tourist shops, outdoor specialists, cafes, restaurants, pubs and the popular Hayes Garden World.
Behind St Mary’s Church and its spire is Rothay Park which provides some nice open space and play areas next to the River Rothay and Stock Ghyll. A short uphill walk follows Stock Ghyll upstream of the town to Stock Ghyll Force which is an impressive waterfall in a woodland setting on the slopes of Wansfell.
The main bus stop is on Kelsick Road within the town centre.
Bowness-on-Windermere is probably the busiest town in the Lake District and at times the crowds can be oppressive but it is an interesting place in a great lakeside setting with plenty of attractions. The World of Beatrix Potter attraction is one of the more popular and is located in the town centre. A short distance out of town along Rayrigg Road is the new Windermere Jetty boat museum. Approx 1.5 miles to the south of the town is the iconic Blackwell House, a beautiful example of Arts and Crafts architecture. The town centre also has numerous shops, cafes and pubs where you can easily spend some time exploring before wondering down past St Martin’s Church to the nearby lakeside area.
Bowness lakeside area is slightly separate to the town centre but often just as busy. There are a number of jetties where you can catch one of the many Windermere lake cruises. Beyond the jetties is Glebe Road which forms a popular loop along the lake shore. Within this loop is a large open recreational area known as The Glebe. The grassy area provides lovely views up the lake and there are various activities available such as mini golf and tennis. Beyond The Glebe is Cockshott Point which also has some good open grassy areas and a footpath along the attractive lakeshore. There are a number of shops, kiosks, cafes and pubs around the lakeside area.
Buses stop in the town centre and at the lakeside area, adjacent to Windermere lake cruises. The Windermere ferry is a short walk away, beyond Cockshott Point. It is approx 1.5 miles from Windermere railway station to Bowness centre, mostly downhill walk or catch one of the many buses.
Brockhole is an impressive lakeside visitor centre owned by the National Park Authority and has many attractions for all the family. The attractive old house is set in wonderful gardens which extend down to the lakeshore and you are free to wonder around it all. There are various different activities on offer including a popular treetop adventure. Also available are exhibitions of the local area, playgrounds for children, shop, cafe, lake shore walks and boat trips. Charges apply to activities but entrance to the visitor centre is free. Attractions open daily all year.
Buses stop on the main A591 outside the entrance and boats stop at the jetty within the grounds.
Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum
Dove Cottage is where William Wordsworth lived from 1799 until 1808 and you can visit the pretty cottage and gardens. The adjacent museum and library houses a fantastic collection of Romantic art and literature. Open daily throughout the year except January. Admission fee applies, includes guided tour of Dove Cottage plus access to the garden and museum. There are also tea rooms/restaurant and toilet facilities.
Buses stop on the A591, outside the main entrance.
Elterwater is a picturesque village at the entrance to the spectacular Great Langdale valley. Its old slate houses, clear fast flowing river, attractive village green and backdrop of surrounding hills is real Lake District. Although only small, the village attracts plenty of visitors being central to some wonderful walking country. A good level walk follows the river downstream from the car park to Elterwater lake and beyond to Skelwith Force. Other footpaths lead up Langdale valley and surrounding hills. There are no shops in the village but refreshments are available at the popular Britannia Inn and adjacent Maple Tree cafe, overlooking the village green.
Buses stop in the village centre.
Esthwaite Water is one of the lesser known Lake District lakes, probably due to it being the only privately owned one with very little public access. However, it is still very attractive and is worth some exploring. The best public lakeshore access is at the small visitor centre at the southern end of the lake. Set in woodland with lovely views up the lake, this offers a number of attractions for visitors and has developed from the original trout fishery. It remains a popular venue for fishing and boats can be hired for this activity. Also on offer is an Osprey Safari where you can self-drive a small electric boat around the lake looking for the Ospreys that are normally in residence between April and September. At any time of year the boat ride gives a great view of the different wildlife on and around the peaceful lake.
The lake has close connections with both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, a shoreline walk follows in the footsteps of the latter and storyboards tell you about the different animals in her books. The small visitor centre at Esthwaite Water has a cafe, fishing tackle shop, picnic area and toilets. Open all year, cafe open Easter to November.
Buses stop at Hill Top which is about 1 mile pleasant walk from the visitor centre.
Fell Foot park
Fell Foot park is an attractive National Trust owned garden on Windermere lake shore. This is the point where the lake ends and the River Leven begins and it is ideal for a picnic and a paddle in summer. There are plenty of open grassy spaces with numerous picnic tables from where you can relax and admire the views across the lake. There are also some good footpaths around the mature gardens, a cafe, gift shop, adventure playground and rowing boat hire. In season there is a regular passenger ferry across the lake to Lakeside. Free entry to the park which, along with the cafe, is open daily all year. Shop and Ferry are seasonal. Toilet facilities.
Buses stop outside the main entrance. Boats to and from Lakeside stop at the jetty near the cafe.
Grasmere is a picturesque and very popular tourist village surrounded by high mountains near Grasmere lake. It was originally made famous by Wordsworth who lived at a number of properties in the area and is buried at St Oswald’s church in the village. You can visit his family’s grave and wonder through the adjacent Wordsworth garden by the river. Adjacent to the church is the renowned Grasmere Gingerbread shop, housed in the attractive old village school which dates from 1630. The various other shops within the village are mostly tourist orientated and there are numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Grasmere Sports event is held annually in late August and is a good place to see various traditional sports events. There are some nice walks along the river and to the lake where rowing boats can be hired. Slightly outside the village, overlooking the lake is Allan Bank, another former home of William Wordsworth, now open to the public.
Buses stop at a couple of locations through the village, including adjacent to the green in the village centre.
Great Langdale valley
Great Langdale is a wonderful Lake District valley with spectacular scenery all around. The enclosed valley is surrounded by some mighty Lakeland mountains such as Langdale Pikes, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike O’Blisco. The road runs along the green valley floor as far as Old Dungeon Ghyll which is a popular starting place for many mountain walks. A good way to appreciate the surroundings more is by walking the relatively level but rough track which continues up Mickleden valley for approx 2 miles from the bus terminus. Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel provides refreshments.
Approx 0.7 miles further down the valley is Stickle Ghyll where the steep path up to Stickle Tarn and Langdale Pikes begins. Refreshments are available here at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Sticklebarn Tavern.
Buses stop at Old Dungeon Ghyll and Stickle Ghyll.
This attractive access area on the western shore of Windermere lake is a short distance north of the Windermere ferry landing at Ferry House. This shore is much less developed and busy than Bowness across the lake and makes a good escape from the crowds. The open area of grass and shingle shore has some fabulous views across the lake, including Belle Isle in the near distance which is the largest island in the lake. The narrow dead end road continues approx 0.7 miles northwards following the attractive lakeshore with plenty of opportunity for a picnic and paddle. Beyond that a rougher track continues northwards towards Wray Castle and makes a pleasant walk. If you don’t mind a bit of climbing there are also some good footpaths and views on Claife Heights which rises up away from the lakeshore.
Back towards the ferry is Claife Viewing Station, built in the 1790’s it provided a wonderful viewpoint over Windermere lake and was a popular tourist attraction before falling into disrepair at the end of the 19th century. It has recently been tastefully restored and again provides wonderful and peaceful views over the lake with free entry. The Station is a short uphill walk from the road and from The Cafe in the Courtyard which provides refreshments. Toilet facilities at Ferry House.
Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway provides a wonderful 3.5 mile train ride within the picturesque River Leven valley. The line was originally a spur of the Furness Railway, joining at a junction near Ulverston. After the line was closed in the 1960’s, the Lakeside to Haverthwaite section was reopened as a heritage railway in 1973. The steam trains, old fashioned stations and scenery make it an enjoyable experience and trains normally run frequently in season but are limited from November to March. There are also a number of themed trips throughout the year. The trains are timed to combine with the Windermere Lake Cruises where you can also sail the length of Windermere. Haverthwaite station has a cafe, gift shop, picnic area and toilets.
Buses stop on the main A590 outside the entrance.
A quaint historic Lakeland village which has plenty of tourist shops, cafes and pubs. The Beatrix Potter Gallery owned by the National Trust is on the main street and you can see some of the original artwork by the famous author. Hawkshead Grammar School is now a museum dedicated to the interesting history of the school which educated some notable pupils including William Wordsworth. St Michael and All Angels church sits on the small hill overlooking the village and has a lovely churchyard where you can find some peace and enjoy the surrounding views.
Buses stop near the main car park toilets.
Hill Top, in the attractive village of Near Sawrey, was once the home of Beatrix Potter and is now a famous literary shrine to her. It was an old farm purchased by her in 1905 and many of her books are based on features around the property and in the village. The property is now owned by the National Trust and is kept exactly as she left it. The house is open daily, except Fridays, from February to November and is also open Fridays in the summer. Closed in winter. Admission fee to house which can be very busy and a timed ticket system operates. Outside there are attractive gardens, a small gift shop and toilets which are all free entry and open the same time as the house plus weekends in November and December. The Tower Bank Arms next door is a quaint looking pub which also has connections with Beatrix Potter.
Buses stop outside the main entrance.
Holehird Gardens are a spectacular attraction managed by the Lakeland Horticultural Society and maintained by volunteers. The 12 acre hillside site has a great variety of plants and features including a walled garden, rock gardens, water features and an impressive Hydrangea display. One of the best features are the superb views towards the central Lakeland mountains. The imposing Holehird House is adjacent which is now a private Care Home but the whole estate was originally a family home when built in the 19th century. Beatrix Potter stayed at the house in 1889 and 1895. The gardens are open daily through the year, dawn to dusk, although reception is only open April to October during the day. Limited refreshments are available in the reception, toilets are nearby. A small donation is expected from visitors for upkeep of the gardens.
Buses will stop on the main A592 outside the attraction on request.
Lakeland Motor Museum
Lakeland Motor Museum is located in striking premises adjacent to the picturesque River Leven at Backbarrow. There are apparently around 30,000 exhibits tracing the development of road transport through the twentieth century. A separate building houses the Campbell Bluebird Exhibition including several life-size replicas of vehicles used by Malcolm or Donald in their various land and water speed record attempts. Admission fee applies to the museum which also includes a gift shop. Open every day apart from Christmas day. Adjacent to the museum, overlooking the river, is Cafe Ambio which serves a good selection of refreshments in very pleasant surroundings.
Buses stop on the main A590, approx 0.4 miles away, so a short walk is required. Transport from and to the Yellow Cruise at Lakeside is provided by a 5 minute shuttle bus ride which operates daily in season and weekends at other times.
You can better appreciate the scenery and history of the area by taking a cruise or train trip. Boats travel up the lake to Bowness or a seasonal service across the lake to Fell Foot park. The railway line is only 3.5 miles long but the steam trains and the scenery make it an enjoyable trip. Trains normally run frequently in season but are limited from November to March. The Lakes Aquarium is situated next to the terminus area and is a great family attraction. The cafe on the pier provides refreshments overlooking the lake as does the adjacent Lakeside Hotel. Toilet facilities are available.
Rayrigg Meadow is a lakeside amenity area with a number of facilities for visitors. There are a few hundred metres of wooded lakeshore access with some pebble/gravel beaches making it ideal for paddling and bathing. Small boats do use the jetties so beware of them. There are attractive views across the lake inbetween the trees. Slightly set back from the lake there are several picnic tables and a childrens playground located in an open grassy area. Queen Adelaide’s hill is immediately behind the car park and the easily achieved summit provides great views over the lake and beyond. Seasonal toilet facilities at the car park.
Buses stop outside the car park. Or approx 1 mile walk from Bowness town.
The small village of Rydal is located near to Rydal Water, between Ambleside and Grasmere, with some good attractions. At the top of the steep lane is Rydal Mount where William Wordsworth lived from 1813 till his death in 1850 and where he wrote many of his poems. You can visit the impressive house and gardens which are in a lovely setting with some far reaching views. Open daily from March to October, Wednesday to Sunday in winter (closed January). Admission fee applies, tea rooms and toilets also available.
Across the lane from the house is the historic Rydal Hall which is now a Christian conference centre. You are free to wonder around the lovely gardens (donation box included) and there is a cafe, open daily all year. Further down the lane is St Mary’s Church which has a pleasant churchyard and behind that is Dora’s field which was owned by the Wordsworth’s and is a mass of daffodils and then bluebells in the spring. Next to Dora’s field on the main A591 is The Badger Bar, serving more substantial refreshments.
Across the road from the pub is a footpath over the River Rothay which soon meets the attractive shores of Rydal Water. The popular footpath leads on to Grasmere lake and village. A good higher level footpath also leads towards Grasmere from behind Rydal Mount.
Buses stop on the main A591 at the bottom of the steep access lane, approx 250m walk up hill to Rydal Mount.
Staveley is a typical Lakeland village with slate houses, surrounding hills, a fast flowing river and a number of interests for visitors. It is easily missed from the main A591 but it is a lot more pleasant than it used to be before the bypass was built. Staveley Mill Yard is the hub of the action with various shops and businesses including Hawkshead Brewery and pub, the huge Wheelbase cycle shop and Wilf’s cafe. Elsewhere in the village itself is St Margaret’s Tower which is all that remains of the old church and the Eagle & Child Inn which has a lovely riverside beer garden. A pleasant short walk leads around the village and along the river.
Buses stop at a couple of locations through the village. The train station is only a short walk from the village centre. Not all trains stop at this station.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill
Still working, Stott Park Bobbin Mill began producing wooden bobbins in 1835 for the Lancashire spinning and weaving industries. Today the mill is well preserved by English Heritage and bobbins are still made for visitors. Admission fee includes guided tours, an exhibition, shop selling gifts and light refreshments, picnic area and toilets. The attraction is open Wednesday to Sunday between Easter and November, daily over the summer school holiday period. Closed during winter.
Boats and trains stop at Lakeside, approx 0.7 mile walk along the narrow road.
Townend is an historic Lakeland farmhouse preserved to show the lifestyle of the family who lived there for more than 300 years. The family moved out in the 1940’s and the property is now managed by National Trust. The attractive 17th century farmhouse retains many original features and was home to the Browne family who were fairly ordinary farmers with some fairly quirky interests as shown by the collection of books, carvings and artefacts in the house. You can wonder around the atmospheric farmhouse and there are tours available at certain times. Outside there is a pleasant garden and an impressive barn across the road. Open Wednesday to Sunday, March to October. Admission fee applies. Toilet facilities.
508 bus stops on the A592 at Troutbeck church leaving approx 0.6 miles walk through Troutbeck village. Other buses stop on the A591 at Troutbeck Bridge leaving just over 1 mile walk, mostly uphill, along the minor Bridge Lane towards Troutbeck village.
Slightly south of Ambleside town, a lovely lakeside setting with plenty of attractions. Windermere lake cruises call at the jetty here and it is well worth taking a trip down the lake to Bowness or even Lakeside at the opposite end of the lake. The Wateredge Inn has a beer garden overlooking the lake and beyond this is Borrans Park which provides a scenic open grassy area with good lake shore access. Beyond this again is the Galava Roman Fort (free entry) and although there are limited remains to be seen, it is a pleasant and interesting area to explore. There are a few small gift shops, stalls, cafes and public toilets.
Buses stop outside the Waterhead Hotel and the boat jetty is nearby.
White Moss Common
White Moss Common is generally the wooded area surrounding the River Rothay, between Grasmere lake and Rydal Water. It also contains an open grassy area with a couple of benches adjacent to the pretty river which provides an ideal setting for a picnic, only a couple of minutes gentle stroll from the road. For the more adventurous, there are good short walks to the attractive shores of Grasmere and Rydal Water. Toilet facilities are available.
Buses stop on the main A591 adjacent to the site.
Windermere town is actually about 1 mile distant from Windermere lake and was formerly called Birthwaite until the railway came in the mid-19th century at which point the station and hence the town took the name of the lake. Although basically joined to Bowness, it is a separate town with its own attractions. The town centre has a number of attractive buildings, independent shops and cafes. Adjacent to the train station is the popular Lakeland shop, Booths supermarket and Tourist Information Centre. Above the town is the wonderful viewpoint of Orrest Head which has sweeping views in all directions. It is a short but fairly strenuous walk starting from opposite the railway station.
A local hub for public transport with the railway station and many bus services stopping here. All buses stop in front of the railway station.
Wray Castle is a striking mock-gothic castle on the shores of Windermere lake. Built in 1840 as a private residence, the house has had an interesting history with many varied occupants. Although owned by the National Trust since 1929 it has only recently opened its doors to the public on a regular basis. There are tours of the castle which doesn’t have much in the way of furniture but the rooms are certainly elaborate with plenty of activities for children.
Outside there are extensive grounds stretching down to the picturesque shores of Windermere lake. There are some fabulous walks along the lake shore which provides a good place for a picnic. Admission fee applies to the Castle which also has a cafe and toilet facilities. Castle open daily from February to October, weekends only in November. Closed in winter. Grounds are open daily all year.
The boat jetty is a short walk from the castle, still within the grounds.